Parkland gives life, education to alum
Dr. Kevin Teal got the jump-start he needed - on both life and his career - from Parkland Memorial Hospital.
The 39-year-old neurosurgeon, Southwestern Medical School class of 1991, entered the world at Parkland in 1964, returned there as a summer intern during college - a move that helped cement his decision to become a surgeon - and later became the first African-American to complete a neurosurgery residency at Parkland and UT Southwestern.
"Parkland will always have a special place in my heart," said Dr. Teal, who also is an ordained Baptist minister. "I was very blessed to get into the Parkland system early, as a sophomore in college. Working in the recovery room allowed me exposure to surgery, anesthesiology, nursing and a whole gamut of things. That really confirmed and pushed me toward the area of surgery."
Today Dr. Teal has his own private practice in Arlington specializing in the treatment of adults with brain, spine and peripheral nerve surgical problems, including brain tumors, cerebral aneurysms, spinal disc diseases and pain management.
He credits the knowledge he gained at Parkland and UT Southwestern, along with his faith in God, in getting him to where he is.
"I really liked the esprit de corps at Parkland, and I met some incredible doctors, who I still steal tricks from today," he said. "That Parkland ER will eat you alive and spit you out; then beckon you back the next day, so it can do it again. It's a great place!"
Friend and mentor Dr. Drew Alexander, assistant dean for community affairs at UT Southwestern, praised Dr. Teal's tenacity and resolve to continually set high goals and work toward them.
"He epitomizes the American dream," Dr. Alexander said. "He was born at Parkland and raised in South Dallas, and always looked for opportunities and took advantage of what was offered him. As a result, he is one of Dallas' premier neurosurgeons."
As for being the first African-American neurosurgery resident at UT Southwestern, Dr. Teal laughs off the distinction. "The residency program is so hard that if you survive, you're just happy you made it. You don't have time to notice any milestones. The milestone was simply being able to wake up each morning in one piece and go back to work."
He is more enamored with being selected as the first recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award for community service by UT Southwestern in 1989.
"Any time you can be affiliated with Dr. King, that's an honor," he said. "It really prodded me to learn more about him."
Community service continues to play an important role in Dr. Teal's life.
Once a month, he visits prisoners at Dawson State Prison in downtown Dallas, where he leads worship services. He also teaches Sunday school at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington.
"I've been going to the prison for about three years as part of a ministry team, serving as the preacher," Dr. Teal said. "We encourage them, share the Bible and pray with them, hoping to help inmates make better decisions in the future."
Dr. Teal at tended Dallas public schools until eighth grade, when he moved to St. Mark's School of Texas, followed by Princeton University. He was awarded an R.O.T.C. scholarship as a college junior.
He served as a major in the Medical Corps and a staff neurosurgeon at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash. After his required four years of service, he knew it was time to return home.
"It was an interesting and learning experience," Dr. Teal said of his military experience. "I got the chance to treat people of all ages - from less than a year old to individuals in their 90s, and from soldiers with injuries to older folks with arthritis, brain tumors and aneurysms.
"I also was in charge of the neurosurgery team that went out on field exercises. I gained a lot of respect for soldiers who actually go through battle and for the doctors who take care of them."
Dr. Teal's decision to become a doctor is due in part to his grandmother's struggle with a progressive neurological disease.
"I watched my grandmother go from a vibrant, active lady to someone who couldn't take care of herself at all and ultimately passed away, after going through the rehabilitation and nursing home cycle.
"That was an impetus to me, watching someone I loved get taken down by a disease that the doctors never really figured out," he said. "It was a kind of powerless feeling - which I wanted to replace."
Dr. Teal's desire to change that feeling, as well as continue his community service work, propels him daily. He already is thinking ahead, wanting to expand his practice and areas of expertise.
"There are lots of new frontiers in neurosurgery and my objective is, as we get our feet planted more firmly here, to raise the bar - so that we continually help with patient satisfaction and patient outcomes."
Dr. Alexander said he expects Dr. Teal to continue to set new objectives and reach for new goals.
"He has emulated the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, combining medicine and spirituality," he said.
Contact: Donna Steph Hansard